ENID, Okla. —
Learning to live in a changed world
The loss of a child is the sort of event that cuts to the soul.
“I never blamed God, but I’ve wondered why God didn’t protect me,” Brandi said.
Jennifer Sullivan, licensed professional counselor and music therapist, said the death of a child goes against the natural order of things.
“Grief is probably the biggest topic I see out of my caseload,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan pointed to ways grief can affect a person’s physical well-being. It can drive up a person’s heart rate and provoke a myriad of physical symptoms, including muscle spasms and nausea.
“People often can’t eat,” Sullivan said. “Your body is physically exhausted, because of all the emotions you are going through. Even crying is a physical reaction to grief.”
Psychological pain can manifest in physical symptoms, and that happened with Brandi.
“For the first few months, my arms physically ached for him,” she said.
It has been helpful that her friends ask how she is doing and talk about Dax, what he would be doing now.
“That’s been very important with my friends,” Brandi said. “That helps parents know that they’re not going through it alone.”
Continuing to go out the door and live life is helpful, but “firsts” are painful, she said. Sometimes ordinary things, like attending a football game and hearing the players’ names announced, remind her of her loss. She’ll never hear Dax’s name announced on the team he might have played on.
Sullivan said ordinary events can serve as triggers for grief to suddenly well up and take center stage.
“That’s normal, but it feels so ‘out of control,’” Sullivan said.
On Dax’s first birthday, the Atkinsons and friends of the family went to the cemetery to celebrate his birthday with cupcakes.
Brandi has found comfort in a book a friend gave her, “Mommy, Please Don’t Cry, There Are No Tears in Heaven,” by Linda Deymaz, and in a website, stillstand ingmag.com.
Brandi said she’s learned that although life goes on, it’s OK to continue to share a lost child by doing things like signing Christmas cards with the name of each family member, including “Angel Dax.”
Brandi’s realization that a child is a gift that can be taken away without notice, has changed her outlook in another way.
“One of the hardest things for me to cope with is people who do not cherish their children,” she said.